Garden City Telegram Pro-Am 2013 Special Section - page 8

THE GARDEN CITY TELEGRAM
8
TUESDAY, August 6, 2013
Former Dunes pro Parker to be inducted into Pro-Am Hall of Fame
By BRETT MARSHALL
For 19 years, Paul Parker
served Buffalo Dunes Golf Course,
Garden City and the surrounding
area as the head golf professional
at the award-winning layout south
of town.
So it should come as no sur-
prise that Parker, now residing in
Wichita, has more memories than
he could recite about 19 seasons
of helping make the Southwest
Kansas Pro-Am one of the top
unaffiliated professional golf
events in the country.
Parker, who stepped down
as the head pro at the Dunes in
November of 2003, will be honored
at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the
Corporate Appreciation Dinner at
the Clarion Inn by being inducted
into the Pro-Am Hall of Fame.
Parker, Buffalo Dunes’ second
golf professional after it opened
under the direction of Randy
Hunt in 1976, will become the
fourth individual to be inducted
into the Hall. Bob Whippo, a vol-
unteer for many years, was the
first inductee in 2009, followed by
Pro-Am founder Kent Colvin in
2010 and Dr. Stephen Meyers, who
founded the St. Catherine Hospital
Newborn Intensive Care Unit (the
tournament’s charitable recipi-
ent), in 2012.
“I got the call from Beth
(Koksal, Pro-Am Coordinator)
in April and obviously I’ve been thinking
about it a lot since,” Parker said in a recent
telephone interview. “To be the first golf
professional inducted is quite an honor. To
be inducted alongside Bob Whippo, Kent
and Dr. Meyers, is a humbling experience.
Those three, more than anyone I remem-
ber, were instrumental in how big the Pro-
Am became and how it has sustained itself
through the years with so many volun-
teers.”
Parker said his return to Garden City
for the celebration on Wednesday will be
just the second time he’s been in town
since his departure from Buffalo Dunes.
“I came back a couple of years after I
left and rode around on the golf cart with
Bob Whippo,” Parker recalled. “He had
stepped down as a volunteer and we just
really enjoyed driving around, watching
the tournament and not having any respon-
sibilities. It was a lot of fun. We put in a
lot of long hours, a lot of hard work, and
I’m proud to have been associated with the
tournament for so many years.”
For 15 of his years at the Dunes, Parker
served as the Pro-Am’s chairman and one
of his main responsibilities was to help
recruit professional golfers to come to
Garden City for the event. Players such
as Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk, Lee Janzen,
Steve Jones, competed here. All of those
players have gone on to become major pro-
fessional golf champions.
“You always wondered why you put so
much work into the event, but on Sunday
when the check was presented to the win-
ner by the kids (Newborn Intensive Care
Unit graduates), you knew what the whole
tournament was about,” Parker said. “That
solidifies what you’re doing and you know
it’s for all the right reasons.”
When Parker left Garden City to pur-
sue other job opportunities, he submitted
his resume to Antelope Hills Golf Club in
Prescott, Ariz., approximately 100 miles
north of Phoenix. One of the individu-
als responsible for evaluating candidates
turned out to be Eric Rustand of Tucson, a
former contestant in the Pro-Am.
“He told the person who hired me to
make sure I got an interview and I ended
up getting to be the general manager of a
36-hole golf club for six years,” Parker said.
“It’s a small world sometimes, and you
never know who will be able to help you
out. The Pro-Am has always been a lot big-
ger deal than most people think.”
When he left the golf business in 2010,
he took some time to evaluate where he
wanted to live and what he wanted to do.
“After 30 years in the golf business, it’s
sometimes difficult to know what other
options are out there,” Parker said. “So
about a year and a half ago, I moved back
to Wichita (his hometown).”
Now, Parker serves as a volunteer with
the local Special Olympics where he coach-
es golf, basketball and volleyball. This
upcoming school year, he will be an inter-
related paraprofessional teaching eighth
grade math at the Chrisa McAuliffe School
on the northeast side of Wichita.
“Working with kids has always been
important to me, and this will give me
an opportunity to do it in an entirely dif-
ferent way,” Parker said. “The highlight
for me was always junior golf day. At one
time we had about 250 kids and I look back
now and see that we had kids like Cole
Wasinger (current Dunes professional),
Walker Frey (assistant pro at the Dunes)
and a lot of others who have gone on to be
successful in the golf business. They’ve
carried on what I was doing and it’s great
to see that I was able to perhaps influence
kids’ lives in a positive way.”
Parker said he can remember how
much the Pro-Am became a family affair
that week, as he had two brothers, one an
amateur, one a professional, who came to
play in the event. His mother, sister, chil-
dren and wife all worked in some part of
the tournament. His father, Virgil, served
as the Rules Chairman for many years as
well.
“It was always a bit crazy that week,
but somehow we made it work,” Parker
said. “You know, when your dad is in a
Hall of Fame (Kansas Golf Hall of Fame),
it’s big shoes to fill. I never thought I’d be
in a hall of fame, that’s for sure. I think
he’d be particularly pleased with this.”
Parker said he was proud of the way
the entire community embraced the Pro-
Am, from all the volunteers to those who
provided housing to the visiting profes-
sionals.
“I’ve had so many golf pros through
the years tell me that it was one of the
best events they’ve ever played in any-
where in the country,” Parker said.
“People know where Garden City is on
the map and a big part of that is because
of the Pro-Am.”
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Telegram Photo
Paul Parker, right, who served as the golf profes-
sional at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course from 1985 to
2003, will be the fourth individual to be inducted
into the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am Hall of of Fame.
The induction ceremony will be Wednesday night
at the Clarion Inn Pick the Pro Dinner. Parker now
resides in Wichita. Here he is pictured with former
Southwind professional Pat Tubach in 1988.
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